Flu-ridden Sabres get early gift vs. Coyotes


On Monday night, the Buffalo Sabres played host to the Phoenix Coyotes at the First Niagara Center. The Buffalo Sabres ended up coming away with a thrilling, and yet, whacky win in overtime, 2-1.

Before the game, four players came down with the flu and missed this morning’s optional skate. Those players were Linus Omark, Ville Leino, Alex Sulzer, and Marcus Foligno. Ted Nolan was hoping to have all of them available for the game, but all of them were scratched for the game.

Mark Pysyk took the place of Alex Sulzer in the lineup, while Johan Larsson was also inserted into the lineup. The Sabres went on to play the game skating with 12 forwards dressed. John Scott was dressed, but rotated throughout the game on defense, and later played some offense. John Scott was even camped in front of the net on the powerplay at times tonight.

In the first period, the Phoenix Coyotes took advantage of the depleted Sabres by outshooting Buffalo 15-3. However, Ryan Miller was strong in the net, and kept the score 0-0. Buffalo’s best chance in the period came when Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson and Zemgus Girgensons tried a “tic-tac-toe” pass play. However, Ennis missed a wide-open net with his shot.

The second period began with Martin Hanzal redirecting a shot from Connor Murphy past Ryan Miller just 19-seconds into the period. The play was reviewed for a possible high stick, but after a good five minutes the goal was deemed a good goal.

“The top of his blade was up high,” said Ryan Miller on the goal. “The puck wasn’t rising, it was already over the crossbar in my mind. I think Toronto got it absolutely wrong.”

At the 11:16 point in the second period, Drew Stafford was assessed a five minute major for elbowing and a game misconduct for a hit elbow to Coyotes defenseman, Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

“It kind of looked like he tried to shoulder him off,” said Ted Nolan after the game. “I think he tried to shoulder him off more than the elbow, but it didn’t look good.”

Buffalo could not beat Mike Smith, who made saves on all 12 shots in the period. After the second period, Buffalo was still being outshot 22-15.

In the third, Buffalo finally gets on the board with a goal by Tyler Ennis. A Michael Stone penalty led to many great chances by the Sabres to get on the board. Shortly after the penalty was killed, Ennis got a pass from Girgensons and beat Mike Smith to tie the game. Buffalo once again outshot the Coyotes in the third period 13-11.

In overtime, each team created some quality chances to win the game. Then with 1:13 to go in overtime, Mark Pysyk took a shot on Mike Smith that bounced in the air and came down in the back of Mike Smith’s pants. Smith then backed himself into his own net with the puck still in his pants. After a short review, the goal was confirmed, and Buffalo walked away with the 2-1 win in overtime.

“I got the puck and just tried to put it on the net for a rebound,” said Mark Pysyk following his game-winning goal. “It came up and I thought I could chip it pass him, but it went up in the air, landed in his pants, and he spun into his own net. It’s my first goal of the year, and I’ll take it.”

Ted Nolan was very pleased with his team’s performance tonight with his team down some bodies. “You have to give this team a lot of credit,” said Nolan. “They had good perseverance and worked themselves. They kept at it, short staffed, three lines. Stafford gets kicked out, and Johnny Scott jumps up and does a great job for us.”

With Buffalo’s play over the past few weeks under Ted Nolan, forward Zemgus Girgensons was asked about the potential for this team’s future. “I think everyone in this locker room is a leader and have a great group of guys,” said Girgensons. “Everyone in this locker room is a brother. Everyone is working their way up in the league. Some guys have contracts up next year, and they just want to help other guys get better contracts, and just move forward and finish this season.”

Buffalo will take three days off to celebrate Christmas and get healthy. Their next game will be Friday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Opening faceoff on Friday night is scheduled for 7pm.

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